September 23, 2020 10:00 EST

Ritual and Culture

  Lot 6
Lot 6 - A French Gothic carved alabaster funerary portal or arch voussoir


A French Gothic carved alabaster funerary portal or arch voussoir
Attributed to Jean de Cambrai (French, 1375-1438), possibly from Sainte-Chapelle de Bourges, early 15th century

H: 16 1/2, W: 11, D: 10 in. (approx.)

Provenance: Private Collection, New York, NY.

Sold for $25,000
Estimated at $7,000 - $9,000


Provenance: Private Collection, New York, NY.

Jean, duc de Berry (French, 1340-1416), was the younger brother of King Charles V the Wise of France (r. 1364-1380). The duc de Berry was a great patron of the arts, and in architecture favored his brother’s taste for luminous alabaster. One of his most important commissions was the Sainte-Chapelle de Bourges, founded on August 17, 1392 and completed in 1450. Modeled on the Sainte-Chapelle de Paris, this chapel was intended as a reliquary for a relic of the True Cross and one of its nails, and in 1403 was also chosen by the duc as his future resting place. The duc selected the sculptor Jean de Cambrai (French, 1375-1438), from the north of France near the Flemish border, to design his tomb, which comprised the well-known effigy that still exists today, along with its architectural setting. Sainte-Chapelle de Bourges was severely damaged by fire in 1693, and further destroyed by a hurricane in 1756. The ruins were demolished in 1757, and its various decorative elements dispersed.

A corbel or arch voussoir carved from a finely grey-veined alabaster quarried from Salins, the preferred source of Royal stone in the early fifteenth century, this fragment depicts a tearful angel on the verge of flight. With right hand to his breast in tender emotion, his face is simultaneously at peace and afflicted by his burden, as he readies to transmit a soul to heaven. Such imagery is most frequently found in funerary monuments, such as the one built by Jean de Cambrai for the duc de Berry. This grieving angel, with his long and narrow closely set fingers, rounded and emotive face, and highly stylized hair in the fashion of about 1400, together with the thick treatment of drapery, indeed bears remarkable similarities to the aesthetic and pathos of Cambrai’s Flemish-influenced style. Taken together, the evidence suggests that this may be an architectural element from the tomb in the lost Sainte-Chapelle de Bourges, and, in the words of Théo-Antoine Hermanès, the noted Swiss medievalist and conservator who evaluated this work in 2011, “almost certainly a work of Jean de Cambrai.”

This lot is sold together with a copy of Mr. Hermanès' analysis, which may also be reviewed upon request prior to the auction.

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